Posts Tagged ‘BYO’

The Rape of Lucretia BYO Peacock Theatre 07 September

September 8, 2011


Symmetry is violated for once (picture from BYO site)

Let’s start with the good news:  enough of what is in my opinion the most beautiful music in all opera (outside of Cosi fan tutte) came across to engage the audience at critical moments, and the ensembles were uniformly lovely.

On the trial match side of things, Kate Symonds-Joy as Lucretia’s nurse Bianca can surely see her name inked in on the teamsheet of a successful career, especially after her earlier run-out in Il Giasone.  Although they quite often seemed disengaged (that trial match feeling again), each of Barnaby Rea (Collatinus), Ashley Riches (Prince Tarquinius) and Rowan Hellier (Lucretia) did manage to pull something out on occasions when it mattered.

But…but…both the orchestra (Southbank Sinfonia, under the direction of Peter Robinson) and the production (director Martin Lloyd-Evans) seemed to be in difficulties coming to terms with the piece.  I do wonder how many of the singers will have been audible beyond the first few rows, and I don’t think that any of the singers playing the  noble characters really inhabited their roles.

The orchestral playing was often stolid and leaden, lacking in subtlety and variation, while the production frequently resorted to arranging the performers symmetrically around the one downstage centre, and in the worst case they stood in a line staring at the audience.  I think that this approach should be severely avoided in what is anyway a rather static piece; and having the characters symmetrically disposed in empty space only compounds the offence.

The production also decided that it was going to tell us what to think about the notorious disconnect between the words and music in the “so that’s all right” ending.*

But as I said I believe that enough came across to make a rewarding evening.

Is it all?
Is all this suffering and pain
Is this in vain?
Does this old world grow old in sin alone?
Can we attain nothing
But wider oceans of our own tears?
And it, can it gain nothing
But drier deserts of forgotten years?
For this did I see with my undying eye
His warm blood spill
Upon that hill
And dry upon that Cross?
Is this all loss? Are we lost?
Answer us
Or let us die in our wilderness.
Is it all? Is this it all?
It is not all.
Though our nature’s still as frail
And we still fall, and that great crowd’s no less
Along that road endless and uphill;
For now he bears our sin and does not fall
And He, carrying all turns round
Stoned with our doubt and then forgive us all.
For us did He live with such humility
For us did He die that we might live, and He
Wounds that we make and scars that we are.
In His Passion is our hope
Jesus Christ, Saviour. He is all! He is all!

Since time commenced or life began
Great love has been defiled by fate or man.
Now with worn words and these brief notes we
To harness song to human tragedy.


Euridice (Peri/Oliver) BYO Peacock Theatre 08 September

September 9, 2010


Not only bleached but also pushed to the side of her own picture: Ellie Laugharne as Euridice

At the beginning of this performance I remarked to my companion that it was not only semi-staged but also semi-audienced.  That was quite a pity, since we ended up by rather enjoying it.

This opera was an arrangement by Stephen Oliver of Euridice (music by Jacopo Peri, words by Ottavio Rinuccini) given on 6th October 1600 as part of the wedding celebrations of Henri IV and Maria de’ Medici.  It sounded to me as though the vocal lines were retained from the original, while the accompaniment had been thoroughly recomposed (and that’s what the programme says too).

As a gentleman sitting behind me astutely observed, the playing here (by seven members of the Southbank Sinfonia, most of them playing several instruments, and under the direction of Christopher Moulds) was very good.  The story was your Euridice-with-a-happy-ending, and the semi-staging (differently lighted backdrop,  largely modern costumes) promoted it from something I would have switched off on the radio to something rather enjoyable.  A lot of the action, even where it involved Orpheus who wasn’t at all dead, was narrated in messenger-speech style.  Given the largely static nature of the thing and the large number of character who it was difficult to tell apart, I think an application of costumy costumes and glamorous objects (lyre, crown, whatever) would have made the production more effective–money could have been saved by doing away with Mimi’s flying bedstead in La Boheme.

I thought the most effective scenes were those in the underworld, where Proserpina (Catia Moreso) had a very nice number imploring Pluto (Matthew Wright) to show mercy, and the chorus got to surround and touch him as well.  And he got some music to change his mind to as well, unlike in Enfuhrung.  Apart from these two singers, I especially enjoyed the contributions of Paul Curievici as a strongly-sung Orpheus and Ben Williamson as Tragedy.

And once you had got used to the scale of the thing and what it was you had a rewarding evening.

La Boheme BYO Peacock Theatre 04 September

September 7, 2010



Illustrates the production concept--I was too demoralised to take a photo


Why was I so bored and irritated by this? I hate Puccini of course, but La Boheme isn’t so bad in principle and according to my battered red notebook I thoroughly enjoyed the BYO production in 1998.  We were sitting at the very front, in case certain members of our party wished to faint, and that will have done no favours to the balance.  However, even from short range, it was often difficult to hear Rodolfo (John Pierce) and Mimi (Susana Gaspar).  The same went, though less seriously, for the Musetta of Anna Patalong.

Now that I think about it, the production was rather strange.  Rodolfo and Mimi searched for her key in what seemed to be full daylight, and various pieces of furniture made their way to the ceiling–most notably Mimi’s deathbed, but also the table upon which Musetta sat as she delivered her Waltz Song–she looked distinctly nervous as she rose into the air, and who can blame her?  I found it difficult to work out which was the inside and which was the outside at the beginning of Act 3, probably because there was snow falling both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.

I liked the Marcello of Koji Terada–he had certainly more than mastered the vocal demands of his part and slouched around like a true Parisian artist.  Colline  (Benjamin Cahn)   and Schaunard (Matthew Sprange) were affectingly–and effectively–youthful.

Why then was I so bored and irritated by this?  I think it’s because this world of penniless would-be artists and thinkers was for a time my milieu as a young man, and this production resolutely refused to capture any particle of it.

Later: the things rising to the ceiling still worry me.  Perhaps we should have a comment from Don Paterson:

I saw that time is love, and time requires
of everything its full expenditure
that love might be conserved; and then I saw
that love is not what we mean by the word.
So the whole world blooms continually
within its true and hidden element,
as sea, a beautiful and lucid sea
through which it pilots, rising without end.

Euridice (Peri/Oliver) and Iphigenie auf Tauris (Gluck/Bausch)

June 1, 2010

Picture of Eurydice being led by Orpheus

British Youth Opera are putting on a Euridice at the Peacock Theatre on Wednesday 8 September and Saturday 11 September.  They describe it thus:

Based on the Orpheus myth that fascinated
renaissance artists and musicians, Euridice
weaves the translucent 16th-century vocal
writing of the first ever opera composer, Jacopo
Peri, into a distinctively modern opera by
Stephen Oliver.

Marking the 60th anniversary of Oliver’s birth,
this new semi-staged production is performed
with a cast of eighteen singers and an on stage
ensemble of eight players, creating an enthralling
piece of theatre combining old with new, ideally
suited to a cast of young singers.

Apparently Peri’s Euridice was premiered in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, on 6 October 1600…

Picture of Iphigenia among the Taurians

Meanwhile (in fact, rather later) Sadlers Wells is offering Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch–Iphigenie auf Tauris on 27, 28, 30 and 31 October.  As far as I can make out, this is the opera by Gluck, except that the singers are stationed at the sides of the stage, leaving it clear for the dancers; details here.

Il signor Bruschino/La scala di seta BYO Peacock Theatre 8 September 2009

September 9, 2009


SanMois%E8The two parts of BYO’s Rossini double-bill shared a basic setting of a bare (if stepped) stage, although there was essentially a different cast for each opera.

Il Signor Bruschino had enough pieces of furniture and realistic costumes to enable you to tell who was who and what was going on. In fact, it went along very effectively, and I particularly enjoyed the well-matched and charming pairing of Elena Sancho (soprano, Sofia) and Thomas Herford (tenor, Florville).

We were sitting in the front row, which had many advantages (hearing the orchestral detail, hearing and seeing the singers), and also meant we couldn’t see the surtitles very easily. But once I’d decided to understand the Italian instead I found this meant I was drawn in much more than usual.

Some lovely music from the young Rossini and good playing from the Southbank Sinfonia meant we headed for the ice-cream-and-toilet break in very good heart.

I once (eight years ago, in fact) saw La scala di seta at GSMD with a very elaborate wood-panelled set which seemed to absorb all of the cast’s energies in dealing with it.

This time we had the bare (if stepped) stage with the occasional picture frame or lampshade or clothes rack for people to hide behind/under/in. And it didn’t work for me, in large part because Natalya Romaniw didn’t characterise the heroine Giulia sufficiently–by which I mean that if you want to be a (female) opera singer you really need to learn how to wear a dress and walk across the stage in character. The unbalancing of the structure in Giulia’s favour was probably heightened by the role of Germano–who is probably the other main character here–being taken by the understudy (Peter Braithwaite).  But I liked Carlos Nogueira as Dorvil, though the pairing with Giulia was a bit spoiled by her singing rather more loudly than him (rather too loudly compared with the rest of the cast I thought).

Hanna Hipp as Lucilla`also seemed to have caught the “It’s a comedy so let’s start off being mad” disease–you need to start with at least the appearance of order which then breaks down. That’s what comedy is. And there was at least one occasion when the less-than-minimalist setting meant I had no idea whether the action was taking place indoors or outside.

So including all of the doors, windows, wardrobes and so on mentioned in the text and stage directions doesn’t seem to work and ignoring them completely certainly doesn’t. There must be a third way…